Paul continues with a record of his imprisonment:
I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ (Phil. 1:12-13 ESV).
Paul, being in chains, could have looked at his circumstances like we would have if we were in the same situation. They were unjust and unfair, and something needed to change quickly. He could have called up Jay Sekulow to set up the trial of the century. Instead, he saw his chains as an opportunity for the Gospel. In fact, he was so focused on the Gospel that apparently even people in even the praetorium that knew of Paul and his message.
In many ways, Paul was in limbo while he was in chains. First, he was in the limbo of popularity:
And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of rivalry, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice (1:14-17 ESV).
People were talking about Paul. Some were using him as an example for spreading the Gospel boldly. Others were using his chains as an opportunity to take shots at him. After all, Paul was pretty controversial in his day. How did Paul respond? He rejoiced that the Gospel was getting out, regardless of the people’s thoughts of him. What a response.
How much do we think about others’ opinions on us? Do we ignore the move of God among the neighborhoods and nations because we are so self-centered? Is our joy found in our own name and reputation being protected, or in the proclamation of Christ?
Second, Paul was in the limbo of survival. He wrote:
Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again (v.18-25 ESV).
Paul was confident that he would be delivered from his chains. He just did not know if he would be delivered in life or in death. Apparently he had a choice. He was honest to say that his desires were split between the two. If he died, he would be in the presence of his Lord, for whom he was in chains in the first place. That was far better for him. If he lived, he would be able to strengthen the Philippians’ joy and faith. Thus, Paul was prepared to stay alive, because he wanted to keep ministering to the Philippians in the Gospel.
How do we think towards life and death? Why do you want to stay alive? Is it because you have so much stuff that you want to keep? Is it because you want to live long enough to be married (or to reach the honeymoon, for that matter)? Is it because you want to live to finally reach the top of your business? Or do you want to stay alive because you want so badly to continue ministering to the church for the sake of the Gospel?
How rebuking this is to so many of us? We are so concerned about our own health and safety, and so grateful that we are redeemed, but do we really think about the health and growth of our brothers and sisters? Would we rather stay on earth to minister to our church than leave to experience all the blessings of eternal fellowship with the Savior?
It is remarkable that Paul would want so badly to be with his Lord, yet he wants so badly to serve the Lord also. A good Gospel teammate is not concerned about what people think about him or her. He cares too much about the Gospel and its progress. A good Gospel teammate will long for glory, but will also care deeply about the church, because he or she cares too much about the Gospel and its progress. In whatever circumstance, are we self-centered or Gospel-centered?